‘Incredibly moving’: Songs of endangered birds beat Abba to fifth place on Australian music charts | Birds
An album composed entirely of bird songs debuted at the top of the Aria charts in Australia, beating Mariah Carey, Michael Buble and Abba to reach 5th place a week after its release.
Songs of Disappearance, a collaboration between multimedia duo Bowerbird Collective and David Stewart, which has been recording the sounds of Australian birds for more than four decades, features the calls and songs of 53 endangered species.
With all the profits going to BirdLife Australia, it has sold just over 2,000 units, of which around 1,500 are pre-sale – a far cry from the number that was needed to hit the charts before the era of music streaming.
The project is the result of a conversation between Anthony Albrecht of the Bowerbird Collective, a doctoral student at Charles Darwin University, and his supervisor Stephen Garnett, author of the recently updated Australian Bird Action Plan, who revealed that one in six Australian birds is now threatened with extinction.
âHe asked if the Bowerbird Collective could do anything to help promote [the Action Plan], and I immediately understood what we needed to do, âsaid Albrecht. âI’m really keen to understand if environmental art like this project can impact attitudes and behaviors. “
Albrecht collaborator and co-founder of the Bowerbird Collective, violinist Simone Slattery, has arranged a musical collage of the 53 species for the opening track of Songs of Disappearance.
The rest of the tracks on the album are Stewart’s recordings in isolation.
“I listened to the birds [as recorded by Stewart] one after another and I found it incredibly touching, âSlattery said. âI kept listening until I could feel a structure coming to me, like an original dawn choir.
âSome of these sounds will shock listeners because they are extremely punchy, they are not melodious at all. It’s clicks, it’s rattles, it’s screeches and deep bass notes.
The collage ends with the Morse code song of the nocturnal parrot, the enigmatic species whose cry was completely unknown to science until 2013.
Another song featured is that of the Regent Honeyeater, which is now so rare that she literally loses her own voice to loneliness – a story that propelled her to her own top 10 in the Guardian Australia Bird of the Year poll. of this year.
âIt’s a much more visceral way of dealing with the idea that these birds might go extinct,â said Sean Dooley, national public affairs manager for BirdLife Australia.
Dooley happily invoked Ian’s tagline “Molly” Meldrum, suggesting to Australian record buyers “do it yourself. [and Australian birds] A favor”.
Garnett said “it is right that the album ranks in the charts”.
“There is a sense of sorrow that we are losing something deeply precious, and the bird calls are so evocative.”
He said that âthe conservation of endangered species is an emotional act. It is more than a question of biology. It’s a much deeper attachment to our surroundings, and it’s a way to achieve it in a way words on paper don’t.
Garnett’s action plan documented the growing impact of fires and global warming on Australian birds. Stewart highlighted another problem: the catastrophic decline of insects, a view supported by the listing of the once abundant bogong butterfly endangered.
âAll of our insectivores are in decline,â he said. âThis is where a big part of our problem lies. You have climate change plus the insecticides that are being pumped all over the place. “
Garnett said that could be a goal of the next action plan, which is updated every decade.
âThe last action plan didn’t have as much about climate change on it, because we didn’t have the evidence,â he said. âThis one doesn’t have much about insect decline, because at this point we don’t have any evidence.
âIn the humid tropics, we don’t yet really know how climate change affects birds – does it directly affect them? does it kill their food; does this allow their competition to the plains as they are able to go higher in the mountains, or a combination of those things.
âIt’s the same in arid zones. When you get the silence that comes after a heat wave, is it because the insects are gone and therefore the birds are starving, or is it because the birds themselves were killed directly? We do not know yet.